By John Hudak
Much has been made recently of alt-right infiltration within the Libertarian Party and the liberty movement in general. This is certainly not without cause, as I have written about frequently. In fact, it is an ongoing issue that certainly deserves much of our attention.
However, while we combat those from the right-wing who seek to change our core principles, we must also be wary of threats from the left. There is no greater example of what I’m referring to than the recently-formed Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Libertarian Party.
While many conservative-leaning libertarians have always maintained that the Libertarian Party is being overrun by leftists, I have generally found these claims to be without merit (at least in the past.) Much of their claims have centered around the existence of a general socially liberal and “live and let live” attitude within the Party, one that I personally hold, and not anything that actually runs contrary to libertarian ideology.
But from both interacting with several co-founders of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus and seeing what they’ve posted on their social media accounts, I can undoubtedly say that those who are warning of leftist infiltrators have a point this time. While I would assume that there are members of the group who are only advocating for voluntary socialism (like individuals choosing to share their resources or combining their properties to create a commune), the leadership of the group seems to take it much further.
The two most prominent co-founders are Matt Kuehnel, the secretary for the Libertarian Party of Macomb County (Michigan) and a founding member of the Dankertarians Facebook page (where he is known as “Cat), and Mike Shipley, who recently resigned as the secretary for the Arizona Libertarian Party in order to pursue other opportunities. Both are also known for their pronouncement that “rent is theft”, along with the accompanying idea that “eviction is murder” (I addressed the “rent is theft” argument and explained why it was both anti-libertarian and incorrect in another article.) Kuehnel has gone as far as to admit that he advocates for communism and believes that hierarchical contracts cannot be voluntary.
None of these ideas are compatible with the Libertarian Party Platform, which states that “as respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld.”
Kuehnel is especially known for his antics on social media, in which he routinely espouses anti-libertarian ideas. These include creating an event to “black bloc” protest the 2018 Libertarian National Convention after he was angry that his views were not catching on in the party, saying that he doesn’t care about “privileged American vacationers” being shot in the 2017 Las Vegas mass-shooting, saying that he supports looters because they are “the victims of class oppression”, and attempting to trick others into believing that the Libertarian Party believes that “capitalism is murder”. After receiving large amounts of external pressure and criticism, he cancelled his plans for the protest and edited his post about the mass-shooting, but this does not excuse the fact that he often posts things like this in the first place.
Kuehnel recently came out against those who believe in the libertarian value of freedom of association, stating that if a business should be able to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding, he should be able to burn the business down.
This comes on top of his previous statement, in which he said he supports “hanging racists”; such a policy would be an absolute betrayal of libertarian values. While I am diametrically opposed to racism and often speak out against racists in my writings, I still believe that such people have rights as human-beings. Murdering them for thought crimes is not something that a true libertarian would advocate.
Shipley, while not typically as radical as Kuehnel, seems to have a decent amount of overlap with his economic views; this includes the idea that “profit is theft”. I have previously criticized him for his frequent use of “Nazi” accusations, which I believe devalue the term for when it actually needs to be used. His explanation for his use of the term (see the screenshot below) leaves much to be desired. Tom Woods, who is a culturally conservative libertarian, should not be referred to in the same way as someone like Christopher Cantwell (who has repeatedly said that he supports gassing Jews).
Even more worrying is the fact that Shipley will be representing the Libertarian Party on a Canadian political TV show called Crossover. Someone who says things like “eviction is murder”, which flies in the face of the idea that an individual should be able to do with his property as he pleases, should not serve as a representative of the United States libertarian movement to international audiences.
As libertarians, we must reject toxic collectivism, whether it comes from the left or the right. The idea that we own ourselves, and by extension our rightfully-acquired property, is a fundamental tenet of our philosophy. While we can absolutely have good-faith disagreements about specific issues, those who reject our core principles should not be granted a voice in our movement.